essentialARB meets the team behind Native Arb, a new and growing brand devoted to high-quality innovative products for the arb market.

FIRST aid shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg.

That’s the mantra underpinning the creation of the personal bleed kit from Native Arb, the first of a range of products to be released by the young company.

Unveiled in 2020, the kit’s striking blue colour, hard-wearing design and attractive price made it an instant hit with arborists. Three years on it has been complemented by a slew of further innovations to meet the needs of treecare professionals, with a growing list of distributors and many more products in the pipeline.

The brand is the brainchild of Roland Heming and Will Yeates, who met when Will was training for a new career in arboriculture.

“My background is in product development, but I’d always been interested in trees,” said Will. “When I finally got fed up with working indoors and decided to go into landscaping, the first step was taking a course – and Rol was running it.

Forestry Journal: Rol Heming and Will Yeates.Rol Heming and Will Yeates. (Image: EA/supplied)

“I asked him if he’d ever thought of making anything, to which he gave me a whole list.”

A tree surgeon and trainer for more than 20 years, Rol has been through more than his fair share of kit, but at the time he met Will in 2019, he was still having trouble finding reliable, high-quality products to meet some of the specific demands of his job. Chief among these was a decent personal bleed kit, durable enough to withstand arb conditions.

He said: “I’d just ruined my last one after spending one winter in the woods and was feeling the frustration. Not only because I’d spent a lot of money on it, but from a training provider’s perspective, trying to meet HSE requirements, it wasn’t up to the task. Trainers are the ones others look to, so it’s important we have the best of everything.

“A lot of kits I’ve seen do not meet HSE guidelines. They might have tried to tick all the boxes but not done it very well. Some, even though they say ‘arb’ on the front, will be woefully inadequate. The point of a personal bleed kit isn’t to have plasters or eye irrigation. It’s a critical, catastrophic bleed kit that will save someone’s life. The rest is stuff that can be kept in the truck. You can walk to get a plaster, but not a tourniquet.”

Together, Will and Rol looked at contents and functionality, studying what was already available on the market, then trying to do better, producing a kit that was fully HSE compliant, hard-wearing, accessible and easy to carry without being a hindrance to movement. Making it genuinely waterproof was a top priority.

Forestry Journal: Contents were carefully chosen to be HSE compliant while meeting the specific needs of arborists.Contents were carefully chosen to be HSE compliant while meeting the specific needs of arborists. (Image: EA/supplied)

“A lot of kits out there are fabric with a spray-on waterproof coating,” said Will. “It may be water-repellent, but when you’ve been out in the rain for five days, it’s not doing anything. That’s exactly what happened to the one Rol had. The contents inside were getting soaked every day, which means they’re not going to last. So making it waterproof was an obvious goal.

“Our kit is completely waterproof and dust-proof. At the same time, the material is thick enough that it won’t be punctured by brash and brambles. It’s pretty tough.”

Will was able to draw on his contacts from his previous career to produce a number of prototypes, each carefully considered and tested before arriving at the final design.

A key consideration was colour, with the duo finally opting for sky blue that would stand out in contrast to most hi-viz PPE and attract the eye of arborists.

“I think a lot of tree surgeons shop with their eyes, for sure,” said Rol. “It’s nice to have something that is not only functional but appealing to the eye.”

However, while the colour may be attention grabbing, it’s the contents that ensure the kit is fully HSE compliant and put it above much of what else is available on the market. This includes a tourniquet, Traumafix field dressing, haemostatic gauze, resuscitation aid, gloves and a pair of Tuffcut scissors.

Will said: “HSE says you’ve got to have gloves, a resus aid and a tourniquet. They all do what they say they’ll do. However, the haemostatic gauze we’ve gone for is slightly different to some others. The most common brand is a 10-ft gauze, which does its job really well, but 10 feet is way too much if you’ve got one deep cut, which is what arborists typically deal with. 

Forestry Journal: The Native squad kit is packed with useful additions to treat severe trauma in an arb environment.The Native squad kit is packed with useful additions to treat severe trauma in an arb environment. (Image: EA/supplied)

“In our kit we offer a haemostat that’s one metre long, which is easier to handle and enough to stuff into a wound, wrap around for some compression and then put a heavy-duty bandage on top of it. Plus it costs a bit less.

“The Traumafix bandage is a military-style heavy-duty wound dressing. Importantly, it’s not an Israeli bandage. You hear a lot of people touting about Israeli bandages, which is what the military uses. They do a great job, with a plastic knuckle inside to give specific pressure. The catch is if you’re a normal person or haven’t done a first-aid course in a while and can’t remember how to place the plastic and knot it off in the correct way, it won’t work. Even if you do know how to use it, typically you’re relying on someone else to dress your wound. It might be someone with 20 years’ experience or two months. 

“The Traumafix completely bypasses that problem. You don’t need any special knowledge to use it. If you’ve got a bleed that’s catastrophic, time is crucial. So these products should help you administer first aid faster and better, depending on how your knowledge is.”

All this is provided at half the price of some other kits, which was of considerable importance.

Rol said: “First-aid kits aren’t cool. At the shows, people will always choose a shiny new carabiner over a first-aid kit – any day of the week. It was important that the price wasn’t sky high or people wouldn’t even glance at it.

“Everybody should have a personal bleed kit, whether they’re new to the industry, self-employed or working for somebody. It should be affordable – especially for young people starting out in the industry. That’s why we’ve priced it where we have.”

Rol was able to utilise his own contact book to find their first customers in the arb world and gather some valuable feedback which helped inspire subsequent products such as the squad kit, pro rigging bag, 100-litre holdall and twin rope bag.

“Speaking to customers, we kept having the same conversations,” said Rol. “Everyone was talking about moving to two-rope working. So we said we surely needed a bag that holds two lines and keeps them separate, which is how our twin-rope bag came into fruition.

Forestry Journal: Native Arb now offers a growing range of innovative products.Native Arb now offers a growing range of innovative products. (Image: EA/supplied)

“Being at the APF and talking to people was especially great for helping us come up with ideas. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel here. We’re just looking at things that are an issue or frustrating for tree surgeons and ironing them out. Everything we do is designed from working prototypes that we’ve used ourselves and it’s all designed for arboriculture – not modified from a product for another industry. That’s a crucial difference.

“I’ve climbed most of my working life, I’ve used all the kit and I know what works and what doesn’t. I know the irritations. 

It’s quite nice and very satisfying to produce something that eliminates them.”